They say laughter is the best medicine and it turns out that’s exactly what one of the most iconic comedic roles – Mr. Chow in “The Hangover” – became for actor Ken Jeong and his wife, Tran, when they faced the unthinkable.
Jeong got the call for the 2009 hit movie right in the middle of Tran’s grueling chemotherapy treatment for breast cancer. Tran, a physician who practices family medicine, says she found a hard lump in her breast in 2007, while breastfeeding the couple’s twin daughters, and was diagnosed with breast cancer the next year, in 2008.
“Ken was so strong for me. I really needed that,” Tran told ABC News’ Amy Robach, herself a breast cancer survivor. “But you know, I knew he was stressed out too.”
"And when the opportunity of ‘The Hangover’ came up, he really worried about [it]," Tran recalled. "He said, ‘I don’t know if I should do this.'"
Jeong, of course, took the role and playing a Korean gangster in the movie also became therapy for the couple, whose twin daughters are now 8-years-old.
“I would ad lib actually,” said Jeong, now the star of “Dr. Ken” on ABC. “I’m Korean and I was speaking Vietnamese in the movie and like I say ‘kai chee’ (Vietnamese for 'chicken die') and all these things to get my henchmen to get out."
“There were these inside jokes between me and Tran," he added. "I would sprinkle that all throughout the movie…it’s like the weirdest love letter to your wife in a very filthy movie.”
The antics worked for Jeong’s wife in her time of need.
“It would just make me laugh,” Tran said.
Tran was declared cancer-free after the filming of “The Hangover,” a moment Jeong, who quit a medical career to pursue acting and comedy, memorialized at the 2010 MTV Movie Awards.
“I want to take the opportunity to thank my wife Tran,” he said at the awards ceremony. “The reason why I did this is that she taught me that life is short, and don’t be afraid to take chances. And I want to tell you that Tran is cancer free for two years.”
The Jeongs spoke with Robach and her husband, Andrew Shue, who helped care for Robach through eight rounds of chemotherapy, about what it takes to be a caregiver for someone with breast cancer.
The two breast cancer survivors, Robach and Tran, both recalled hearing a similar sentiment from their doctors about what their cancer treatment would be like.
“One of the best things I heard from the beginning is, ‘Tran this is going to take a year,’” Tran said.
“My doctor said, ‘Be prepared, you will have a year of hell,’” said Robach. “And then it will get better.”